I think I originally read How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff around 10 years ago. I was lent it by my best friend and my initial teenage reaction can be summarised by 3 letters: WTF? But it was powerful enough to stay in my mind for a decade. Once every so often, I’d remember it and how different its plot was to other things I’d read. So when I saw a copy of the book going for very cheap (too cheap) in a Waterstones, I decided that I needed to reread it. I’m very glad I did, because by taking more time to read it, I loved the plot (which I’d forgotten a great deal of, if I’m honest).
And okay, I may be 24 years old but I am not embarrassed to admit that I still really enjoy young-adult/teenage fiction. I was especially shocked at how How I Live Now definitely has more adult and sexual themes than I’d initially picked up on when I read it as a young teenager (ahhh, it’s nice to know I was innocent once!). As a “young adult book” this shouldn’t be too surprising, but what made it stand out was the incest between cousins. I mean, sleeping with/marrying/dating your cousin *is* legal in the UK and I don’t see anything wrong with it in theory, but no one can deny it is *different* and it makes this book stand out. More so since the sex is underage – between a 15 and 16 year old, though consensual.
Another thing I missed when I initially read it (blissfully ignorant perhaps) is that the main character struggles throughout the book with an eating disorder and barely eats. Therefore TW: it may not be the best book to read if you struggle with food. The entire novel is written in first person, from the perspective of main character Daisy, and it potentially could reinforce negative eating tendencies. She does eventually “get better” miraculously during the war in the book and she constantly dismisses therapists, so the book isn’t particularly helpful for advising treatment either.
The story itself is set in modern times when a war with an unknown enemy has broken out – there is confusion and 4 cousins are left alone in the English countryside. As time goes on, the events of the outside world creep in to the bubble that the children have formed around themselves, and the book becomes increasingly fast paced. Overall, it is a stunning book whose unusual plot stays with you long after you’ve read it.